The Padres' Heath Bell has been one of baseball's best closers over the past two-plus seasons, racking up 89 saves in 2009-10. Though he's undoubtedly benefited from the pitcher-friendly dimensions of his home digs, PETCO Park, Bell's output is no fluke: He's posted closer-worthy peripherals since establishing himself as a big league reliever.
Now in the final year of his contract before free agency, however, Bell, 33, is a trade candidate on a cost-conscious Padres team that may not be able to afford investing too heavily in a closer. As well, the Friars have excellent setup men in Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson and Chad Qualls, any of whom could capably take over closing duties if need be.
Earlier this year, Bell expressed that he'd like to stay in San Diego, and a rumors of an extension were cropping up. Those talks have cooled, however, and thought it's too early to write off any team, the Padres are six games under .500 through their first 34 tilts and struggling considerably on offense. In fact, Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote that the Padres should think about peeling off a reliever – perhaps Bell – now, to beef up their lineup.
Bell, like the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez, could be an intriguing rental for a contending team looking to bolster its bullpen, and unlike K-Rod, Bell's contract doesn't include that tricky games-finished option, meaning an acquiring team could use him at will.
Here's a list of some teams that could be in the running for Bell's services, should he be made available:
- Cardinals. You don't need to follow the @closernews Twitter feed to know that the Redbirds have been unsettled in the ninth inning recently. Bell could be the linch pin to a bullpen that can't seem to produce a clear-cut closer.
- Rangers. Neftali Feliz is a top-flight closer, but his recent stint on the DL exposed Texas' relatively thin relief corps. Bell could be an ideal setup man and spot-closer when the Rangers want to rest the younger pitcher's prized arm.
- Phillies. Brad Lidge, currently on the DL, is on the mend but is injury- and slump-prone, and Jose Contreras is hurt, too. Bell could solidify the Phils' bullpen with Ryan Madson and the emergent Antonio Bastardo. Remember: The Phils are a win-now team in a big market, so they'd probably make a deal like this if they think it'd put them over the top.
- Marlins. The Marlins' early success has surprised some, largely on the strength of a revamped, so-called no-name bullpen – including the likes of Michael Dunn, Ryan Webb and Brian Sanches. Still, closer Leo Nunez has struggled in the past, and Bell would probably become their best reliever.
- Indians. The Tribe are another pleasant surprise getting by with an unheralded bullpen, and Bell could make a formidable late-inning duo with closer Chris Perez.